Today (14 July) marks 51 years after South Africa lost one of its most
distinguished and former Drum journalists, Ndazana Nathaniel Nakasa.
Nakasa was among a group of black journalists at Drum Magazine who were closely associated with vibrant, violent and somewhat romantic culture that represented Sophiatown in the 1950s. He joined Drum in 1957 and worked closely with legends like Can Temba, Arthur Maimane, Bloke Modisane, Todd Matshikiza and others.
Their writings had to indirectly show the effects of apartheid on black lives as the Suppression of Communism Act (of 1950) warranted banning of journalists if found to be condemning the system.
Nakasa later edited a literary journal known as The Classic. It published work such as Can Themba’s “The Suit” in 1963, now regarded as a classic of South African literature.
Nakasa was awarded The Nieman Fellowship to study journalism at Harvard University in the United States but the government of the day rejected his application for a passport. He forcefully left the country on an exit permit and because of that he would never be allowed to return to South Africa. He completed his Nieman Fellowship at the end of June 1965.
As it was not possible for him to come back to the country, when he died, his body was buried in New York. May 2014 saw a successful project to return his body home, and his remains arrived in the country on August, 19 2014 to be re-buried near his hometown Chesterville outside Durban.
SANEF, Print Media Association and SA Nieman Alumni all have awards for courageous journalists named after Nat. SANEF gave all eight SABC journalists who are facing disciplinary action for speaking up against censorship Nat Nakasa Awards this past weekend.
He was a magnificent journalist, without whom many of us would not have had the admiration we have in the craft of journalism today.